Monday, September 13, 2010

how do you guide your life?

Whether we realize it or not we all have stories/fictions by which we guide our lives.  These fictions usually contain principles or touchstones with which one can fashion a life.  Can one fiction, however, work as a guide for our entire life?  Sometimes when we feel out of sync, ill at ease in our world and/or in our body, it is a prompt that we need to reexamine and question our guiding mythologies.  Clarissa Pinkola Estes often asks, "Are you walking in shoes too small?", by which she is suggesting that the stories/beliefs/mythologies that have been carrying us through life may no longer fit.  Perhaps it is time to question our guiding fictions/mythologies.  James Hollis speaks to this subject in the following quotation:

"...the question, "What fiction shall be my truth?" is a very large challenge to modern consciousness.  Tribal mythologies and sacred institutions have lost their numinosity for most of us.  So the responsibility for myth has fallen upon the individual.  Either we create our myths, our fictions, as Blake said, or we will be enslaved to someone else's.  Soren Kierkegaard describes the fiction by which Socrates lived his soul's journey:

"Socrates could not prove the immortality of the soul:  He simply said:  This matter occupies me so much that I will order my life as though immortality were a fact -- should there be none, eh bien, I still do not regret my choice; for this is the only thing that concerns me.

"According to Kierkegaard, Socrates was spared the trap of bewitchment by his fictions, spared seduction by his constructs.  His wisdom lay ... in the fact that he knew that he did not know.  His life was a search for constructs whcih gave meaning and purpose to his existence.  He served a worthy fiction, not whether or not immortality exists, but that the idea of immortality is worth a lifetime's devotion.

"What about us?  What have we found to give worth to our own journey?  What fictions do we serve?..... A worthy fiction leads one to a worthy life.  What fiction, then is your truth right now, your guiding image?  Is it worthy of the high summons of a life's journey?  Is it possible that your fiction has been outlived?  What is its source -- mom and dad, culture, trauma?  Do you like what you find?  Are you choosing or being chosen?  By what fiction does your life fulfill its truth, betray its truth, avoid its truth? 

"To find our truths we must travel consciously, by way of our fictions."

Excerpts from James Hollis', On This Journey We Call Our Life - Living the Questions, pp. 84, 85.

(digital art in this post created by bz with images from AuroraDreams and textures from Shadowhouse Creations)


  1. Interesting post Bonnie. I find myself right now in a period where I feel a huge need to clean up my house as it were, to purge, to get rid of stuff - as much in my environment as in my head.

    It's a bizarre feeling.

  2. I find myself now, after reading this searing post, that I have collected all too many fictions and untruths about life and existence. The only certainty I can salvage is that there must be an element of truth and reality in all of this mis-directed energy. To that end, I find reading your postings like finding sign posts in the smoke. Thanks, Bonnie, once again. EFH

  3. Oh, Bonnie, this is such a rich posting that I don't quite know where to begin. Let's start with the photos; they are stunningly beautiful and inspire a deep mystical attraction.

    Your questions, as well as those of Clarissa Pinkola Estes and James Hollis, are both fascinating and challenging, and I so believe in their paradoxical premise, specifically, that our stories, mythologies, and fictions are parts of our individual truths. Blake was so right about this — we either create our own stories or we become enslaved to someone else's stories.

    When I left home after high school, I typed a Thoreau statement on a small piece of paper an carried it in my wallet for about ten years, until it totally disintegrated. The statement, which became my motto, was: "If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." I treasured this quote, as I do now, because it reminded me that I did not have to be the slave of the negative stories that had been drilled into me by family experience and a repressive southern culture. I could create my own story — live that story — and become that story. The stories we choose for ourselves are not inauthentic, for they always reflect our heart's yearnings, the essence of who we truly are.

    To use Estes' metaphor, I have changed shoes often and plan to change shoes many more times before the journey is over. Like Kunitz, I am not done with my changes, and the key is to have a mindset that lends itself to growth, rather than stagnation.

    This is such a wonderful subject. Thanks so much for bringing it forth. I look forward to reading the comments of others.

  4. I loved this challenging post, Bonnie, and the question of a meaningful life within the 'fictional' framework we impose upon it preoccupies me greatly. I suppose all my own walks are metaphors for this. I just can't help seeing dramas, symbols, 'meanings' in all the landscapes and people I encounter. That's just me. I suppose a lot of walkers are just content to walk from A to B! We create our own walks and treks, our own lives, through creative, conscious, existential choices all the time...


    this is a very rich post indeed filled with challenge. I am so full of truth, reality and what is that I desire fantasy some days so to escape. I stay grounded until such ground becomes shaky and I float off for a respite. The truths, my truths, always calling me back. Great post.

    Love to you
    peace, hope,healing and truth....

  6. Oh I definitely have created my own fictions. After leaving behind at an early age the ones my parents gave me I read and read and read picking here and there until my story was complete. It has served me well, continues to serve me.

  7. I think my philosophy of life, which is what I like to call it, has changed and developed over the years. At present I would say that I am truly happy with it - but circumstances alter cases and it may well change in the future. Interesting post Bonnie and plenty of food for thought.

  8. Wonderfully challenging post, motivating us to ponder and respond. I shall pose and take my time on this. What is life, what is important, what issues consume us are life-long pursuits. What myths guide us? I grew up with Catholicism, whittled it down to its fundamental truth of "do unto others", reviewed and transcribed in so many ways, for decades. I'm still learning, still pondering, still searching for more, deeper understandings.

  9. nice thought provoker bonnie...i like to challenge my fictions, becasue truth be told, i might be wrong, even about the truth...

  10. These questions resonate for many reasons. I suspect that I am fashioning a new narrative. The old one seems too limiting, but I am not sure I have fully defined the new one. Will it be a novel, novella or flash fiction?

  11. I must read this at least six more times as the first time it "bitch slapped" me...Oh yes there are fictions that I cling to- denials- false stories that give me what I think I want...My day will now be spent in this post of yours. Thank you Bonnie- You and your hammer!

  12. This is in keeping with the Donald Miller book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." He asserts that we are all living a story, and that if we are unhappy with our story, we have the power to write and live a new story. He walks the reader through this very concept in his book and its very revealing while being simplistic in its premise.

    Very provocative post...

  13. I am not sure that I understand the concept of a 'fiction' by which one lives one's life.

    But if I live by any, they are deliberate fictions, fictions I know I have constructed consciously.

  14. Stunning photos, which carry your words that much deeper. And your words always challenge me to look beyond what I think is my truth. Or my story. And I have lived too many stories for too many people for far too long. Finally I am writing MY story and it's a damn good one!

  15. I am thoroughly enjoying the discussion you are hosting here, Bonnie. I, too, believe that we must create our own myths, symbology, our own fictional narrative that will serve as our truth. And your post asks me what is mine? The fact that I do not have a ready or glib answer reminds me that I still have much work to do in that garden. It will be rewarding and stimulating work, to be sure, as are all my visits here on your blog.

  16. This is very thought provoking! Love it! Love the painting. It stirred some emotions in me...

  17. The gorgeous top image drew me in, like a dream, one I would want to live in. Incredible.

    But the questions you present are just as delicious! They are questions I hear a lot, within me. I think it is possible to recreate our stories, that's one. Also, I find that much of how I see the world is fictional, something I am assuming in my head. When a track of thought starts getting me into a place of negative emotion, I realize now that I can sort of pick up my mindset and move it over to another field. I can choose to believe what I want to. To believe that the Universe wants to shower me with blessings is one such choice.

    Wonderful post. I want to go on with it . . .

  18. The quote by Socrates is exactly how I feel.

    Having an open mind, being accepting, but thinking for and listening to myself. My life is simple...which I choose it to be!


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